In the end, it was a unanimous vote by the School Committee to enter into negotiations with Almudena Abeyta as the next superintendent of schools, although it took a handful of votes to reach that decision.
The Committee met Thursday, May 9 to consider three finalists to replace Mary Bourque, who is retiring this year after more than 30 years in the Chelsea schools.
While each of the three finalists for superintendent garnered some support from Committee members Thursday night, Abeyta, currently the assistant superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for the Somerville Public schools, had the majority of the support from the board throughout four votes.
While there was not unanimous support for Abeyta from the get-go, Committee members universally praised the high quality of all three finalists. In addition to Abeyta, the other two finalists were Anthony Parker, the Weston High School principal, and Ligia Noriega-Murphy, assistant superintendent of secondary schools in the Boston Public Schools.
“Chelsea is very lucky tonight to have three outstanding candidates,” said At-Large School Committee member Frank DePatto. “The city is in good hands with any of the candidates.”
DePatto noted that having three highly qualified candidates did make for a difficult decision for the Committee members, a sentiment echoed by District Five School Committee member Henry Wilson – who just joined the Committee a few weeks ago.
“I changed my mind and then I changed my mind again,” said Wilson. “Today, I did a lot of praying.”
District Seven School Committee member Kelly Garcia said Abeyta was the candidate who spoke most to her as an educator.
“She answered every question with calmness, urgency, confidence, and experience,” said Garcia.
In the first round of voting, it looked like Abeyta was in as the choice of the School Committee with a 5-3 vote. The Committee’s ninth member, Rosemarie Carlisle, could not attend the meeting because of a medical issue.
However, after some legal consultation, it was determined that the vote was taken after only one name was entered into nomination. Under procedure, the Committee should have entered all candidates being considered into nomination.
During that round of voting, Abeyta fell just short of a majority, garnering four votes, with Noriega-Murphy getting three and Parker grabbing one vote. A second round with the top-two vote getters ended with a 5-3 majority for Abeyta, enough to secure approval.
DePatto, who voted for Noriega-Murphy during the open nominations, made the motion to make the vote unanimous for Abeyta.
Even though he backed Noriega-Murphy, after the meeting, DePatto said he was happy with the outcome of the meeting.